Tourist Destinations and the Jazz Festival: The Best of Both Worlds

Jazz is the sound heard around the world

Bob Dockery, Jr.


Everybody’s got a favorite vacation. It could be a trip to the Florida Keys to reel in big game fish. It might be that once-in-a-lifetime cross country trip or an annual Caribbean cruise. If you’ve read Jazz 2012: The Montreal Jazz Festival, you may have already guessed. For me, it’s a pilgrimage to jazz festivals around the world.

I’ve enjoyed world-class jazz in tourist destinations and exotic, romantic settings such as the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy and the Pori in Finland. My first and long-time favorite was the Newport (Rhode Island) festival. Then it became the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam. Now my favorite festival takes place in the magnificent city of Montreal.

The Montreal Jazz Festival is set right in the center of this beautiful city. Year after year Montreal presents one of the best musical line-ups of any jazz festival in the world. A great deal of it is free; played on the streets and accessible to everyone.

Most jazz festivals are set up with more than one stage. With over 1,000 artists and 150 performances, the North Sea Festival has grown to 13 stages featuring simultaneous performances throughout the day and night. The Montreal and Montreux (Switzerland) festivals both have multiple stages, but not as many as North Sea. Newport’s Playboy Jazz Festival, however, features a single stage with acts appearing in one continuous flow.

The music of world-renowned jazz artists is the draw for a festival, but these events showcase much more than great sounds. The best way to enjoy a festival in its entirety is to walk around, sample the many varieties of food and drink and browse through jazz-themed art and photography.

Like sailors and skiers, there is a camaraderie that exists among jazz festival-goers. Most of us are over 40, white collar professionals. We’re a racially diverse group with just as many women as men among our ranks. I compare us to a far-flung family with jazz festivals as the site of our reunions. At any festival in the world we’re bound to run into the some of the same members of our “jazz family.”  And it must be said that jazz lovers are truly mellow people.  In all my years of attendance, I’ve never seen bad behavior, bad attitudes, or fighting anywhere.

Slowly, the traditional jazz demographic is aging.  Festival promoters have taken note and included other musical forms to attract a younger audience. Snoop Dogg performed at the 2012 Montreal Jazz Festival. Earth, Wind and Fire played at the North Sea Jazz Festival. Now, at an international jazz festival you can expect to hear world music, Latin, Brazilian, Caribbean, Reggae, African, Cuban, and Gospel music mixed in with the sounds of traditional jazz.

Jazz is the sound heard around the world. Take a look at our calendar to see if there is a live event near you. Or buy a ticket, catch the sounds and experience the culture of another country. Travel safely; I guarantee you will enjoy.

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